Sunday, January 19, 2014

Held Up Without A Gun

Ever since Backstreets made known to everyone last week about the possibility of downloadable live recordings, it was only a matter of time before there would be an official announcement. A day after Bruce himself mentioned it in the NPR interview, the program is soon becoming a reality. It's something every fan has been wanting for a long, long time. Bruce has finally jumped on the bandwagon, following acts like Pearl Jam, Metallica, The Who, Phish, The Black Crowes, John Fogerty, Red Hot Chili Peppers and many others, making his upcoming shows available in soundboard quality. There's one catch however. It's 40 fucking dollars. It's daylight robbery. The idea is you buy a USB wristband online (which is just plain stupid and so old-fashioned) or at a show and are able to download it two days after. The quality is only 320kps, and it costs 40 bucks (online it does, but expect it to be priced around the same at the merchandise stands). Bands like Pearl Jam release their bootlegs weeks after the shows, but they are properly mixed, and very reasonably priced - $9.99 for mp3 and just a few dollars more for lossless format. The CD and HD versions cost about $20. As far as official bootleg releases are concerned, the PJ business model is perfect. It's a win-win for everyone. I don't see why Bruce and co. can't adopt this same method of selling; logistically, isn't it so much simpler? Instead, they are following exactly what Matchbox Twenty does, implementing measly 2GB USB bracelets that will probably be of very little use after obtaining the recordings. And pricing it ridiculously high will only encourage more illegal file sharing. We all know the setlists differ greatly from show to show, and the hardcore fans will want to own many recordings, but imagine forking out 400 bucks for just ten shows. On the flipside, Pearl Jam is selling the entire CD box set from their 2013 North American tour for $375. And that's 25 shows in total. I really hope the Springsteen management fixes this bullshit soon. They're really screwing us over. Ask Eddie Vedder for some sound advice.

Backstreets does some damage control [link], assuring fans that this wristband thing is only the start of something bigger:

A source close to the tour confirms this was indeed the thinking, with those fans attending in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia the primary target, not the die-hard collector. "This is meant for the other fan — the one who might only see one show on the tour or ever." The source went on to explain that they never intended this as the way super fans were supposed to collect shows: "We are not expecting them to go to the online store and buy a boatload of wristbands!" Online store purchase of wristbands outside of the show is there more to support those who attended, but didn’t buy at the time. The wristband approach, the source assures us, is just the start. Right now it is a piece of merchandise, not the end-all, be-all concert download solution. "My hope is that they opt to make the audio tracks available in various formats at a reasonable price," says a second source close to the band. Our tour source goes one step further: "In the future we DO want to address what the super fans are looking for — reasonably priced downloads or CDs of live shows — past and present. The wristband is not a substitute for that."

While this is certainly promising, I can't help but think this whole program wasn't exactly well thought-out to begin with. Management should've laid it all down in a press release. I don't care if the wristband is aimed at a smaller target audience, I still think it's not a good idea. It's just a quick money grab.